Environment (Seagull), 1984

Environment (Seagull), 1984
Watercolor on paper, 68 x 49,6 cm

Symbolic denunciation of environmental destruction

The macabre image of a fatal emergency landing: a seagull has become caught in power lines and died. An electricity pole leans into the picture from the right. It is supported by a metal rod. The backdrop is a southern seascape. Eery blue and purple skies stretch across the picture. There is not a person in sight, and yet human actions have caused the bird's death. The image is a denunciation of humankind's reckless interference with nature for its own gain and the way it is changing or even destroying the habitat of flora and fauna.

In the year this watercolour was painted, Germany was experiencing an increasing number of environmental disasters: smog in the cities caused by power stations burning sulphurous lignite, increasing evidence of forest dieback, a dioxin scandal at a Hamburg landfill site, mustard gas from the Second World War at the bottom of the Baltic Sea and highly toxic, radioactive nuclear fuel released following a shipwreck off the Belgian coast. News like this sparked public debate and growing public environmental awareness. Societal changes are reflected in Baumgarte's work.